It is often said, “If you think being married to a narcissist was bad, wait until you divorce one.”
Who said that? Me. Yours truly. Because unfortunately, I know.
What is also unfortunate is I learned this the hard way.
If divorcing a narcissist were a class, I failed it with a big fat F. Only because back then I didn’t have a clue about narcissists or what they were capable of.
Now that I do, the way I make up for my mistakes of the past is to share my lessons learned in the hope of helping someone else avoid the hell I went through.
The failing student has now become the teacher with a Ph.D. in Hindsight, and it’s my goal to make sure you ace this class.
Here is what you need to know when divorcing (or thinking about divorcing) a narcissist:
You are not beginning at the same place.
Problem: Before papers have even been filed, you’re already exhausted. A narcissist is just getting started.
Solution: Take care of yourself and spend your energy wisely. Don’t make decisions from a tired place. Surround yourself with people who can share the load and support you through the process.
You are traumatized. A narcissist is not.
Problem: Because of your trauma, you risk making choices you’ll regret later when you’re feeling stronger and can see things more clearly.
Solution: Get help from someone who has experience with narcissistic abuse. Make this a priority. Your emotional and mental well-being will thank you.
A narcissist will exploit your attachment.
Problem: They know you’re a good person. They see your good qualities as weak spots and will take advantage of them to suit their own needs.
Solution: Stop projecting your goodness onto a narcissist. Stop assuming that because you wouldn’t do something or cross a certain line that they wouldn’t. Think of the lowest possible thing someone could do…a narcissist will go lower.
Your definition of “fair” is different from theirs.
Problem: What’s fair in your eyes is not going to be anywhere close to what a narcissist sees because you’re relying on what’s fair to both of you, while a narcissist is only thinking about what’s fair to them.
Solution: Forget fair. Own your worth. Take your emotions out of the process and look at it like a business deal. Your future depends on it.
They know how to make you feel guilty.
Problem: This is how they keep the element of surprise in their favor. They will sucker-punch and double-deal you again and again, while you stay in a place of How could they do this to me? This tactic of shock-and-awe is meant to wear you down so that you’ll put up less of a fight.
Solution: Do not underestimate how low they will go. And stop being surprised by it. Accepting a narcissist for who they are gives you all the power because you’re no longer shocked by what they do.
They want to wear you down.
Problem: A narcissist will doggedly harass, annoy, bother, frustrate, and punish you in the hope you’ll throw your hands in the air out of pure exhaustion and surrender, giving them whatever they want.
Solution: Cut your communication to a bare minimum. If you’re able to go no contact and speak only through the lawyers, do that. This way you’re severing their direct line to you.
They’ll find lawyers who are as shady as they are.
Problem: All attorneys are not the same. Many are narcissists themselves.
Solution: Find yourself a fan-fucking-tastic lawyer who has experience in high-conflict divorce with personality-disordered people. You need legal representation that advocates for you and who you can trust to help you make those decisions you might not be able to make because of the pain you’re in.
They don’t care. At all.
Problem: A narcissist will lie, cheat, and steal to get what they want. They will smear your name and accuse you of things that they’re actually doing. And they’ll sleep just fine because they have no remorse.
Solution: Use your attorney to do your dirty work for you, such as responding to outlandish claims or trying to cheat you out of what is rightfully yours.
They will hurt their own children to punish you.
Problem: They see your children as tools to use as they wish.
Solution: To protect yourself and your kiddos, you must stop seeing yourself as a “we” with parenting. There is no such thing as co-parenting with a narcissist because they don’t have the best interests of the children in mind. Stand firmly on the side of your kids and parent as an “I” — you’ve got this and you’re stronger than you think.
I know how heartbreaking this all is. Divorce is hard enough without also having to recover and heal after a marriage to a narcissist.
Unfortunately, there is no avoiding the nightmare that divorcing a narcissist brings. But if you are aware and wide awake as you navigate this road, if you drop all your illusions and see the narcissist for who they really are, if you find a great attorney and get the emotional/mental help you need, and if you always always always keep your future in mind, then you can reduce what otherwise would be a life-altering nightmare into a more manageable bad dream.
What this will do is make you stronger, wiser, and better off at the end when you can look back at your divorce experience and know that you did everything in your power and handled it like a boss.
Like the person the narcissist always knew you were.
And make no mistake about it, they know how strong and capable and resilient and fucking awesome you really are.
This is why they spent so much time trying to convince you otherwise.
As always, Suzanna’s wisdom is epic!